For many musicians, summer is a time to reboot artistically and work with new people, often traveling far from home to learn something new and kick their careers in the tuchas. However, even if you’re staying in SoCal this summer, you can benefit from any of the summer fests taking place within day-trip distance, and one might be flying under your radar. Let’s fix that.
SongFest has been around — founded in 1996 by Rosemary Hyler Ritter, the program has taken up residence in Irvine and Malibu, but has now settled at downtown LA’s well-heeled Colburn School, within very easy reach for most of our readership. The program is known, more than anything, for its outstanding faculty, particularly the ongoing involvement of singers like William Sharp, pianists Martin Katz, and composers like Libby Larsen, Jake Heggie, John Harbison and John Musto, to name just a few (and in no particular order). Participants leave this experience with more than a few extra coachings: they have a wealth of new knowledge about art song and concertizing, and considerably more performances under their belt.
What do Sundance and SongFest have in common? Soon, it will be Graham Johnson. Last summer, the film fest’s music guru, Peter Golub, attended SongFest events with his wife, Cristina Warner, out of their shared love of art song. The experience has grown into a documentary film project shining light on Johnson’s work with Schubert’s repertoire. You can read more about the ongoing filming here, or learn more about Johnson’s Schubert events here. But be sure to attend the concert on Friday, July 12: this unique program, devised and narrated by Johnson, is the culmination of this very special focus on one of the genre’s greatest masters.
Be sure to listen in on at least one of the public master classes as described here, and get to as many of the (FREE!) concerts as you can. Parking downtown, especially during the day, can be pricey, but there’s a Metro Red Line station about a block away from the school — get directions, Metro and parking info here.
This festival boasts extraordinary talent on every side, resulting in intimate concerts with resounding emotional power. Tap into that flow of inspiration as much as you can, and see where it takes you in the coming year.